Pete Cochrane

A Different Point of View

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The Tin of Peas

It seemed like a good idea at the time, taking one of my articulated trucks and trailers to my young daughters infants school with the intention of promoting awareness of the transport industry as early in their young lives as possible. Some of my suppliers had kindly supplied colouring books, pens and promotional pieces for them all and I brought a tin of garden peas!
My idea was to ask them how many trucks it took to get a can of peas to a shop. The question brought a wild and broad numbered response from the children to the point that the attending teachers had to regain control of the situation. Lesson learned on my part!
I then explained that if a tractor and trailer brought it to the processing plant, the following trucks would be needed to get a can of peas onto a supermarket or corner shop shelf:

For the Can:
1) Raw materials to make steel coil to make can.
2) Movement of coil to can factory.
3)At least another truck for materials used in can manufacture.
4) Empty pallets delivered to stack empty cans on.
5) Reels of plastic banding (non-biodegradable) delivered to secure cans to pallets.
6) Squares of wood delivered to put over the top of the pallets before banding.
7) Cans delivered to pea canning plant.
8) Can lids deliver to the canning plant.

For the pea can labels:
9) Wood to paper making plant.
10) Paper reels to the label making plant.
11) At least one truck delivering ink chemicals to the label making plant.
12) Labels delivered to the canning plant.

For the pea canning plant:
13) At least one truck delivering chemicals used in the canning process.
14) Empty pallets delivered for the finished product at the canning plant.
15) Finished cans of peas delivered on pallets to the RDC.

For the Regional Distribution Centre (RDC):
16) Delivery by at least one truck to the shop.

The tins are recyclable as are the pallets and some labels. But plus or minus sixteen trucks for the production of a tin of peas was not perceived as a big concern in 1993!

Move to 2019 and trucks are seen by the climate change protesters as the worst killers of the climate, when in reality Euro6 emission level trucks are cleaner than most cars per ton/km.
Another reason why trucks are required is that we love the supermarket and over the years, apart from the odd corner shop they have killed the high street butchers, fresh produce suppliers, bakers and to a large extent door to door milk deliveries. In fact most of the shops you bought things at in a high street shop in the 60’s and 70’s have been replaced by the supermarket. If truth be told, many more trucks would be required if this hadn’t happened. One truck can carry the equivalent of thirteen van payloads and the equivalent of even more van payloads if it’s a bulky load volume wise.

If I could walk into a persons house who thinks trucks should be banned, what would I find in their cupboards? Even worse what would I find in their freezers or fridges especially if they are of the older CFC type. Most frozen food packaging is not biodegradable. Very little if anything in your house and probably including your house wasn’t delivered by a truck.
How many walk to the supermarket instead of using a car? Whenever I go to a supermarket the car park is full, in fact I generally walk to the supermarket unless I happen to be passing on my way home from work.
Then there are the people who think truck road tax should be put up. Well, go ahead and watch food and other product prices rise as the margins a very slim in road transport. It’s nothing more than a stealth tax on the public because very little of the proceeds are spent on improving our roads. It matters not a jot which political party you vote for. Some are so misguided they want to ban trucks altogether. I’m not sure how they plan to clothe and feed the nation.

So all I ask is that next time the sight of a truck annoys you, look in your shopping bag, your house and even your car, and ask yourself how all these things got to the shop where you bought them or even how they got to your door. The chances are that most if not everything will have been in or on at least one truck before it got to you.



Volvo FH460 Turbo Compound Demo

The brilliant Volvo FH460TC Demo
The brilliant Volvo FH460TC I-Save Demo

I’ve been trying to think of how to start this report in a way that conveys my views of this vehicle sufficiently enough. For 55 years (since age 7) I’ve been playing with engines, cars, motorcycles and trucks. In that time I have probably driven, ridden or had a very close up look of probably well into the hundreds of vehicles. I’ve studied Motor Vehicle Engineering and Computer programming at college, I’ve raced Motocross and also worked in F1, MotoGp and WRC with a lot of the top teams as well as owning my own small fleet of trucks running to Europe for 12 years. Furthermore, I’ve seen vehicles that have made step changes in these disciplines over the years and that consequently raised the bar that other manufacturers have had to catch up with. Some of the more notable ones on my list that I consider to have achieved this step change are as follows: Suzuki’s RM370A Motocross bike back in 1975 made most of the paddock want to load up our machines and go home, it was so advanced at the time. Volvo’s steel cabbed F86, that came into the UK when everything we made was fibreglass and wood. The Volvo F88 290, that had rubbish brakes but a cab strong enough to save my life in a bad accident. The 1978 Volvo F10, sporting cab suspension never before seen on a truck. My Scania 113 Topline, one of the very first in the country in 1988 and was an eye-catcher wherever I went at the time. Ferrari’s F360 sports car, the first Ferrari road car that you could use every day without getting a huge bill in very few miles. The Ferrari F399 F1 car, the first F1 car by Ferrari for a long time that didn’t have bits falling off it more often than not. Volvo’s FH04, a vehicle I consider to be one of the best fleet vehicles about. Scania’s Next Generation S500 truck, the truck I would have bought had I still been an owner driver/small haulier, at least that was until I drove Volvo’s FH460 Turbo Compound I-Save Demo! Definitely a vehicle that is going to be included in my step change list.
If I was in the market for a truck I would have given Andy Wright from Volvo, the money for this truck and told him not to bother wrapping it. Impressive does not describe how much I enjoyed driving it. I did five shifts to Scotland with this truck and after reading Volvo’s quick start leaflet included in the truck, decided to follow the instructions to drive wherever possible in cruise control.
The first shift had me going across country from Abington to Livingston as the M74 had severe delays at Hamilton, so really I only had the distance from Penrith to Abington to gain confidence in the trucks abilities on cruise control especially with regard to safety. The first thing I noticed was the broad spread of torque this truck had. It just out-pulled most similar trucks on hills and went over Beattock at 50+ MPH on cruise control without any input from me, something the Mercedes Actros 450 can’t do even if you manually change down a gear as suggested by the Mercedes Trainer.
The safety features on this demo are absolutely incredible and assist the driver in a predictable manner to a level higher than we currently have on the Mercedes Actros or previous Volvo FH460 trucks. The Mercedes Actros has a habit of doing some very unpredictable things to the point I think its sensors are sometimes hallucinating! The Volvo was a far more relaxing drive in the way the safety features work. One very good thing on the Volvo that might be part of the DAS system, is the heads up display that shines a red light on the windscreen when coming up behind a vehicle. The distance can be adjusted when you need to close up a bit before overtaking, but nevertheless I can see it being a really good safety feature. The Mercedes trainers have always said drive the Actros on cruise control as much as you can even on non-motorway routes. I have never been quite happy about doing that with the Mercedes mainly because of the way it reacts when it sees something that it considers a danger rather than that of the driver, by that I mean things that are not a problem and sometimes for no reason at all. However, I was quite happy to drive the Volvo on cruise control on non-motorway routes and never felt or experienced any unpredictable behaviour.
The Mercedes Actros 450 is not very good performance-wise on non-motorway routes and uses a lot more fuel trying to make progress while failing miserably unless you go over the speed limit to attack a hill and even then its lacking in torque. No such problem with the old Volvo 460 and even less of a problem with the new Turbo Compound version.
On a couple of occasions I came across Next Generation Scania’s and out dragged them on the hills. I wasn’t totally convinced that it could be that good torque wise until I came up against a Next Generation Scania with an empty plant trailer on Douglas Moor. I think we would be similar weights as I had 8 pallets of Milk in a fridge trailer, he was trying to keep level with me up the hill but the Volvo did pass him before we got to the top. Similarly I had a lunatic in an Actros and fridge tried the same thing and I passed him up the hill as well, and after he passed me down the other side, I passed him again before the weigh station at Beattock summit. Going down the last bit of Beattock I was coasting on the limiter and the said Actros passed me well in excess of 60mph and had the camera van been out at the bottom as it is sometimes, he would definitely have got a ticket. I had one or two people even asking if it was a 500 with 460 badges on as well.
At the end of the first day I was concerned that the AdBlue gauge wasn’t working and rang Andy Wright to report it. He assured me it was because the new engine uses a lot less AdBlue than the previous model. It certainly uses a lot less than the Actros and the gauge never moved hardly all week. As fuel economy is maybe slightly better than the Mercedes and at least on par with it, its frugal use of AdBlue has to be taken into consideration.
Other points of note are that Volvo seem to have made panels fit better and doors sound less tinny when you close them giving it an improved feel of quality. It’s also very quiet and this was commented on by the other drivers who drove it. The ride is also comfortable with no cab nodding like the Actros does at times. These features probably contribute to feeling a lot less fatigued at the end of the working day.
As with all Volvo’s and Swedish trucks in general, it is very manoeuvrable in confined spaces with none of the unpredictable surging that the Mercedes and MAN trucks exhibit, especially but not confined to when reversing.
When testing a truck it is pointless and shows a lack of integrity if you don’t say truthfully what you think, and I have always reported things as accurately as I can. With that in mind, it was hard to find anything wrong with the Volvo and considering that I’m a Scania man and even found a few problems with the Next Generation Scania R450 I tested a year or so ago, says a lot. I thought I had found two little things I didn’t like by being really picky, but when I told Andy Wright, one of them turned out to be me not knowing how to find where to adjust the speed limiter for such as driving in conditions where average speed cameras may be in use at a lower than limited speed. The only other issue was when you are finished using the adaptive speed function it was necessary to disengage the cruise control to cancel it altogether, then re-engage the cruise control. I would have much preferred the ACC button to both engage and disengage the function without disengaging the cruise control as sometimes you only activate it in case you need it or if you are going to use it for a short while.
In conclusion this may sound a like a character assassination of the Mercedes, but I did point out these concerns in previous reports while testing the Mercedes. Furthermore, in nearly every other report I have submitted I have stated what I consider best for the fleet and what my personal preference would be in comparison if I was buying a vehicle for my previously owned transport company, most notably that has always been a Scania. Well, I hope you are sitting down because that is not the case this time. I think my truck of choice would be a Volvo FH460 Turbo Compound. I believe it has the right power, economy, safety and comfort for any job that I have done in my 42 year career. Anybody who knows me will probably be astounded by that revelation. This truck is without doubt a step change and sets a bench mark that other manufacturers will have to reach.
Just a reminder that these are my own personal views and do not reflect anything that my employers may think about this vehicle. Thank you for letting me try it and also thanks for reading another long winded report.



Driving home for Christmas

I’ve been debating whether to write this post for a few days now. Christmas and the New Year looms nearer and as usual and for some unknown reason stupidity abounds on our roads and escalates as we get nearer to the festive season. I can’t understand why anybody wants to take such risks to save a few minutes and potentially plunge themselves or family and friends into a lifetime of grief and regret. This post is a bit long and may not be for friends on my page that have suffered loss in an RTA.
In my early twenties and just starting out in my truck career, I was involved in a bad truck accident when I hit the back of another truck stopped on a dual carriageway in the dark with no lights on. Without going into too much detail I became trapped in the cab as the drivers seat had pushed my legs under the steel dash. In hindsight what I perceived as smoke was probably steam from the radiator but the thought of burning to death was very present. I remember a Policeman standing on the back of the other truck telling me that if it had been in a British truck and not a Volvo, I would not have survived. Luckily I rang Jacqueline from the hospital and told her I had been in a bad accident as a driver had called into her Auntie’s shop and asked which one of Alderson’s drivers had been killed this morning.
Move forward to the 1990s and one of my own trucks and its driver were involved in a fatal accident. Again without going into too much detail, it was the start of some of the blackest days to comprehend that I can remember. The truck was impounded until the accident investigators had checked it over, which is usual for a fatal RTA. I went to the accident investigation and apart from the two investigators checking the truck one other policeman was standing there. After the investigators had finished, they gave my truck the okay and even commented on how well looked after it was. The other policeman then came over and said he was glad they had found no problem with the truck as he was there to arrest me if they had, and he could see I was greatly troubled. Immediately the truck was released, I had it recovered to Scania and asked for every part of the truck to be tested against manufacturers spec to try and get some little piece of closure for what had happened. It didn’t, but the testing was so comprehensive that the police used the data as well as theirs in court. Even though as a business I was cleared of negligence, it has never given me closure and only time has dulled its memory.
Move on to 2015 and my youngest brother Andy was killed in an RTA in Dorset and while I was unloading my truck in an RDC in Scotland. It’s hard to take in a phone call telling you your brother has been killed and then drive back home with the truck. There is far too much time to think when you’re a truck driver and you spend most of your time on your own.
Something that has stuck with me for many years that happened in my early career, is another accident in which thankfully I was not involved except for being the first truck to arrive at the scene behind two or three cars. I was travelling in very heavy deep snow and this car overtook me drifting and generally fooling around as he did it. I remember thinking he must be an idiot driving like that. Ten minutes later I arrived at the scene of the accident. It seems he had lost control of his car, gone into a hedge and bounced back out right into the path of a fully laden artic tipper. There was no mobile phones in those days and it was going to be a while before the emergency services were alerted and arrived at the scene. In the meantime other people at the scene were getting the passenger of the wrecked car into another vehicle to take him to hospital. The driver was not so lucky, he was still alive but it was hard to tell where he finished and the dash of the car started. I was in my early twenties and had never witnessed anything like this before. The other people there seemed to be on top of the job so I just went back to my truck out of the way. I will never forget what I saw that day either, but I also remember thinking that somebody somewhere is waiting for him to come home and it’s never going to happen for the sake of a few minutes delay and a bit of stupidity.
One of my drivers came across a car that had hit a truck head on and overturned while driving in Germany. He could hear children screaming in the back of the car and it was quite obvious the parents were dead. The vehicle was leaking petrol, yet without a thought for himself got the two children out and away from the scene. He told me that once the emergency services arrived and taken charge, he was asked to get the truck out of the way. He went to the nearest services and had a shower as he was covered in blood and petrol, then he put his clothes in a bin. I don’t think he ever got over that experience right up to his death a long time later.
The emergency services experience these accidents a lot, but I can’t see that they ever get used to it. Some of my friends on here are either in or ex-members of the emergency services and all I can say is thank you for being there. I also have a friend on here who served in the navy and survived his warship being sunk during the Falklands conflict, and others on here that are ex-army and have endured conflict protecting our interests. Military personnel sign up with the possibility of experiencing dangerous conflicts and we should all thank them for their service. I can only imagine some of the sights they will have seen and wonder how they manage them in their heads. I’m not sure if these experiences have affected my mental health as I usually keep them locked away as much as I can, and I’ve only written this article to try and bring awareness to the grief that driving without consideration for heavy trucks and other road users bring to the survivors of such accidents. The dead aren’t suffering anymore, but the survivors have to deal with it for the rest of their days.
We are just truck drivers doing our job to make sure supermarket shelves are full and Santa’s presents are delivered on time, so you and your family can have a great festive season. My trucking colleagues and I also want to go home to our families for Christmas yet many of us will be working in some capacity or other to keep the food supply chain going over the festive period.
Tomorrow (Monday) I am being trained to drive one of our new Mercedes Actros trucks (never too old to learn) with advanced safety features. On Tuesday I start driving one of the latest trucks from Volvo that has probably the most comprehensive set of safety features on any truck. It warns me if I’m too close to the vehicle in front, or if I’m tired, or to warn me of vehicles in my blindspots, or I go over a white line without indicating. It also has collision avoidance assistance, and a camera facing forward with one on either side looking backwards that record everything that happens to a hard drive in case of an accident or incident. The one thing this truck or any of our other advanced safety equipped trucks can do, is change physics. If you pull into my braking distance and put your brakes on (a favourite pastime of car drivers coming up to a motorway exit) in front of one of these trucks, it will try its hardest to stop and avoid hitting you. However, while it can detect a stationary vehicle in the carriageway and brake accordingly in that distance, it can’t do it when the distance has been reduced by a car or other truck drivers erratic manoeuvre.
Please think carefully when driving and consider the size of the vehicle you are overtaking and how much distance he or her needs to either slow down or get out of your way before you pull in. If this document makes one person think a little bit more carefully about how they drive I will be happy. I hope we all have a merry Christmas and a happy new year, but I fear that will not be the case for everyone if current driving habits don’t change.



Robot Transport

So by the 2030’s all minion run production processes, and that also includes the road transport industry will be run by robots or driverless trucks. So I wonder if in the next thirteen years our road infrastructure will improve sufficiently to support driverless vehicles? Furthermore, will pre-launch testing include such things as what a driverless truck would do if a fully laden truck had a front wheel blowout while descending a hill or what it would do in the event of a breakdown while driving on a motorway or in a city, or even what it would do if it’s planned route was impossible due to roadworks?
All are valid questions among countless more including what happens when a sensor fails together with any redundant systems that may be fitted. I’ve been lucky enough to drive a lot of the latest technology fitted to heavy trucks including topographic data input, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, proximity control and collision avoidance systems, and while all these system are brilliant bits of kit for the driver, but they are by no means infallible.
I envisage queues at depots where trucks become confused or stop and I also think that the first family that gets wiped out by a driverless truck will cause a radical disagreement on blame, with the onus being contested by the operator, vehicle manufacturer and the programmers. Who will actually be found guilty and whether they will serve a prison sentence remains to be seen.
In the meantime the transport industry bemoans the fact that no new drivers are coming into the industry, and I wonder why anyone would want to come into a thankless industry when future employment prospects look so bleak.
I am certainly not worried about being replaced by a robot in the next decade, more to the point, I think the road transport industry should be worried about not having a robot ready to drive my truck for when I decide that I have had enough of watching an industry that gave me everything continue on it’s misguided course of self-destruction.
Watch this space for a future post on driverless trucks and the potential implications of their inevitable and possibly sooner than you think appearance.



Writing Content

Writing content for this blog is not an easy task I have found out. I am a firm believer in giving as accurate a picture of a given subject as possible, without short changing the reader with an incomplete point of view. This means unfortunately that sometimes new content may not happen every week, but might result in some weeks where two new articles appear. I have a lot of subject matter under construction and hopefully you the reader, will find it thought provoking and entertaining. The world is changing very quickly, and in my humble opinion not for the better. A few world leaders that should possess thoughtful and progressive interactions with other countries, seem to want to take random and dangerous action against other countries that don’t have the same views. This makes the future look very bleak on a global scale, plus Brexit is happening whether we like it or not. It doesn’t matter if we wanted to stay or go, a democratic decision was made and we have to go with the result.
So in this changing World, we as individuals have to find a way of being better at what we do, or even invent or do things that nobody else has done. In other words we must conquer the world through innovation and entrepreneurship. I hope in a small way I can help you see things from a different point of view, because some of the skills I have picked up over the years, have taught me that no problem is insurmountable, you just need to reframe it.




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